The myth of the myth of the wage gap July 29, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in career, feminism, societal commentary, work.
Tags: discrimination, sexism, wage gap
Someone made a comment to me this weekend that I found rather interesting: “Why are men judged more on their income level than women?”
I thought this was interesting for two reasons. First, Charles Peters posted something related on Facebook…which I’ll get back to in a moment. (Thanks, Charles.) Timing is everything. Second, I was going to respond that, given our society is given to traditionalist notions, it’s kind of hard not to. In traditional roles, men are supposed to be the breadwinners…hence, their income level is the primary characteristic by which they’re judged. Feminism argues that this shouldn’t be the case, that men are more than just breadwinners and should have the same options to be stay-at-home dads, and it’s catching on…but slowly.
Anyway, I understand why the question is being asked and I do agree that it’s unfair that men are judged this way. On the other hand, there’s a level of silliness in asking the question when it’s obvious we don’t live in a society where men and women are completely equal.
Going back to Charles, he posted a link to a video by Steven Horowitz that supposedly shows that women don’t actually make less than men and that this ‘supposed wage gap’ is actually a result of the fact that women go into fields where the income level is lower and also tend to work part-time.
Here’s the video, if you’re interested:
I love how, at the end, the Horowitz makes the comment that the wages paid “reflect the productivity of those choices.” (And yes, I hope you’re getting the sarcasm here.) Based on that comment, he’s ignoring the fact that, by his own argument, women having anything to do with raising children is completely unproductive. Therefore, the real smart choice is simply to not have children. (And, well, if you look at the women who tend to be highly successful in academia, it’s not a surprise that a good number of them don’t have children.)
So sorry guys (and maybe some gals): you have a choice between marrying a successful woman or having children, but don’t expect both.
Horowitz also glosses over the fact that there is a serious chicken and the egg question about the lower-paying fields. Are they really ‘lower productivity’ choices? Is a school teacher really less productive than an engineer? According to the market, maybe, but is that really a good evaluator of productivity? Personally, in my work, I don’t know that I work a whole lot harder than a school teacher. In fact, I was part of a program in undergrad where I worked with school teachers and, after seeing what they go through, decided there was no way it would be worth it. The question in my mind is whether these fields are undervalued precisely because they are women-dominated. (And, in fact, there is research that shows this.)
And finally, there’s this notion put forward in the video that women aren’t actually paid less than men. The Center for American Progress put forward a study showing that, if you look at the wage gap in each occupation, it turns out that 97% of jobs pay women less. This flies in the face of Horowitz’s suggestion that the solution is to encourage women to go into higher paying jobs.
Of course, the second part of his solution is only marginally helpful: men need to help more with child care. However, this is asking 1) that men do something ‘non-productive’ in terms of market and 2) doesn’t do anything about the lower salary in many women-dominated fields.
It seems like he missed another point: while women have made strides into entering male-dominated fields, the reverse has not been as true. There is the possibility that, if men were encouraged to enter those fields, they may become more valuable. On the other hand, men who do enter such fields tend to be promoted faster than women.
So back to the question of why women aren’t judged as harshly as men for their income levels: it’s because society still believes in traditional roles that women are really about making babies and their contribution to the monetary economy isn’t relevant because they aren’t as competent as men.